Merriam-Webster defines “reputation” as:
“overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general”
Nowadays that reputation is increasingly informed by what people see online. Use of the yellow pages is going down. Google is way up. People ask for opinions on Twitter before they would pick up the phone to get their best friend’s opinion.
So while you used to invest resources to make sure your business cards, stationery and signage reflected your image and good reputation, now you must use turn your attention to your online reputation as well. Little things online speak loud and clear about the quality and character of your business.
Below are 5 little-known factors that affect your online reputation:
1. Company Website
If your company doesn’t have a website, it’s as good as non-existent. But it takes more than slapping on a website to form a good online reputation. Your website must look nice, of course, and be readable and all that. But it also needs to have updated content. The contact information should be clearly visible. Visitors should see the people and faces behind the company. Anonymous websites give off a fly-by-night aura.
And forget the static company website that’s the online version of your brochure. Nowadays, people expect companies to provide useful information. This enhances your reputation as an authority in your field. And makes prospects know you care about them. This is what a blog is good for.
2. Social Networking Profiles
Aside from your website, your social networking profiles also reflect on your online reputation. First off, look at the user name you’ve chosen. If it’s not your company name or your personal name, make sure it’s not something silly or nonsensical. And then there’s the issue of your avatar. In some cases you don’t have a choice but to use your company logo. Otherwise, avoid anything confusing or vulgar.
Lastly, pick your friends. The people you follow on Twitter, your LinkedIn connections, your Facebook friends, and the Facebook pages you follow all reflect on you. Choose them wisely.
3. Social Networking Updates
This may be obvious, but it’s too important to leave out of this list. What you tweet about or post on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ all affect your reputation. You have to be especially mindful if you’ve synchronized your different social networks together. For example, you may forget that your Twitter tweets are automatically published on your LinkedIn profile. Then you absentmindedly tweet, “Beer starts flowing in an hour!” That would be a huge turn off to your professional network on Twitter.
You may have also linked your Twitter account with your YouTube account. If this is the case, you’ll automatically tweet every time you upload and favorite a YouTube video. Make sure your YouTube activities are relevant to your Twitter followers. Or unlink your accounts.
Be purposeful about your social network presence, and make sure each of your updates are aligned with your goals.
4. Search Engine Ranking
How you rank for your top keywords also affects your online reputation. If you’re not in the top 10 of the search engine results page (SERP), you’re pretty much not in the big leagues.
Another important SERP to look at is the type of web pages that come up when you search for your company name and/or the names of your executives. If one of them is a blog post with the title, “Acme’s Blue Widget Sucks – Don’t Buy!” then that will affect your online reputation.
5. Comments in Blogs and Forums
Online comments made by your company executives and employees on blogs and forums also affect your reputation. I’ve seen people leave snarky comments, or even pick a fight online. This doesn’t look good, even when there’s a good reason for it. These comments never read in a good way. And, remember, these are web properties you have no control over. So you couldn’t go back and delete them afterwards. They may even rank well in SERPs.
This doesn’t mean you should restrict employees from participating in online communities. But do remind them to think twice, three times, or more, before publishing anything when they’re angry or upset.
How’s your online reputation?
Looking at the factors above, how’s your online reputation doing? Are there areas where you can do better? How can yo use social networks to improve your reputation?
Image by lululemon athletica
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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